Iowa History Timeline: Text Version


B.C.E. = Before Common Era
C.E. = Common Era
Iowa Event

Julien Dubuque Befriends Natives

Julien Dubuque, a French-Canadian, traded with the Mesquakie Indians in Iowa and became friends with them. The Indians shared the location of their secret lead mines with him.

Find out more about lead mining in Iowa.

U.S. Event

Peace of Paris or Treaty of Paris

The American Revolution ended with the signing of the Peace of Paris. Britain recognized the United States as an independent nation. In addition, the United States gained rights to large amounts of land in North America. All the land from the Appalachian Mountain west to the Mississippi River and from the Great Lakes south to Florida was granted to the United States.

U.S. Event

Land Ordinance of 1785

This law passed by Congress required every township to set aside a section of land (640 acres) to support public education. The land could be sold and the proceeds used for public education.

Find out more about the ordinance.

Iowa Event

Land Ordinance of 1785

The United States government created a plan that gave order to the settlement of the land it wanted to sell. The plan was called the Land Ordinance of 1785. The Land Ordinance defined how new states could be admitted to the Union from the Old Northwest Territory. It also defined the methods to be used for surveying the undeveloped and unclaimed land. Iowa was admitted to the Union under the provisions of this act.

Find out more about how the Land Ordinance of 1785 brought order to the land.

U.S. Event

Farmers Rebel

Massachusetts farmers, lead by Daniel Shays, took over a federal arsenal and a state court to protest heavy taxes on farmers. It became known as "Shays Rebellion."

Find out about farmers' strikes in Iowa.

U.S. Event

Early Steamboats

The era of the steamboat began in America in 1787. It was in this year that John Fitch conducted a trial run of his steamboat on the Delaware River. It was Robert Fulton who is considered the first person to use steamboats as a successful commercial enterprise. Steamboats were used to carry products and passengers up and down the Mississippi River and other rivers in North America. In the mid-1800s many immigrants arrived in the territory that became Iowa by steamboats.

Steamboats would not arrive in Iowa until the 1820's.

U.S. Event

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

This act passed by Congress created a way to admit new states into the United States. It allowed settlers to create territorial governments. After the territory had 5,000 adult white males it could send representatives to Congress. When the area had 60,000 people living in it, the territory could become a state.

Find out about Iowa's path to statehood.

U.S. Event

The U.S. Constitution Ratified

The U.S. Constitution specifies duties the federal government and duties of the state governments. Examples of state duties include setting up town governments, regulating trade within the state, establishing schools, passing marriage laws.

Iowa Event

Julien Dubuque Establishes First European Settlement in Iowa

Julien Dubuque is considered the first white person to live permanently in what is now Iowa. He and other French people from Canada lived along Catfish Creek under an agreement with the Mesquakies, whom they hired to work in the lead mines near the present city of Dubuque. Lead was a valuable commodity, and Dubuque sold most of it in units known as "pigs" in St. Louis, where most of it was used to make ammunition.

Find out more about Iowa's early European explorers.

Questions to Consider:
When viewing information in the timeline, consider the following questions:

  • What time in history did this event occur? What else was happening at that time?
  • What events led to this event? What events followed it? Does this event begin or end something? Is this event part of a sequence of other events?
  • How did this event influence the present? How might it influence our future?


Several entries for this timeline were adapted from Prairie Voices Iowa Heritage Curriculum, Annotated Iowa History Timeline, State Historical Society of Iowa, 1995. Used with permission.

Additional Sources:

  • Agriculture in the Classroom: Growing a Nation: The Story of American Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture.
  • Discovering Historic Iowa Transportation Milestones, Iowa Department of Transportation, 2000.
  • Downey, Mathew T. American History 1 and 2. Chicago: McGraw-Hill, 2006.
  • History and Life: The World and Its People. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1980.
  • Keenan, Sheila. Scholastic Encyclopedia of Women in the United States. New York: Scholastic Reference, 1996.
  • National Standards for History, UCLA National Center for History in the Schools, 1996.
  • Randy Lyon, This Month In Iowa History, State Historical Society of Iowa.
  • The Challenge of Freedom. River Forest, Illinois: Laidlaw Brothers, 1982.
  • William Kovarik, Ph.D., Environmental History Timeline, Radford University,
  • World Adventures in Time and Place. New York: Macmillan McGraw-Hill, 1997.

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